By DAN KARELL
A number of Columbus Crew fans were vocal in their disappointment of the club’s new television deal, and the Crew leadership has taken the time to respond.
In an open letter on the Crew’s website, president Marc McCullers apologized for fan’s frustrations of the TV deal, especially when it was announced just two days before the start of the 2014 season. Crew owner Anthony Precourt also reached out on Twitter to explain why the club decided to sign a “multi-year agreement” with Time Warner Cable instead of the old home of the Crew on Fox Sports Ohio.
Under the new deal, 33 of the Crew’s 34 matches this season will be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, which is only offered to Time Warner Cable subscribers. While that might not be something to gripe about, anyone living within 75 miles of Crew Stadium will find Crew matches, both home and away, blacked out on MLS’ internet streaming subscription, MLS Live.
This in essence leaves thousands of current and would-be Crew fans in the dark, unable to watch their club play this season except on May 4 when the Crew face Sporting Kansas City on NBC Sports Network.
McCullers wrote in the letter that one of the main reasons for the Crew moving forward with Time Warner Cable was because the company would make the Crew a priority, something that Fox Sports Ohio apparently did not do.
“Our decision to move in this direction was based on several key factors,” McCullers wrote. “(1) Time Warner Cable SportsChannel wants to build their professional sports programming around the Crew and make the club a main priority for the station; (2) The creation of expanded programming that highlights the Crew through unique and compelling content; (3) Full clearance and priority positioning on the basic cable tier without pre-emptions for our matches throughout the Time Warner Cable footprint in the region; and (4) High Definition capabilities for both home and away matches.
“The combination of these factors really left the Crew with limited TV alternatives and made Time Warner Cable SportsChannel the best option for the club.”
Both Precourt and McCullers also revealed that the club will in fact be losing money in this deal, and that it was not a financially motivated move, which some fans were suggesting.
“The main sacrifice in this decision, which is a significant one, is that we would stand to lose reach and distribution in Central Ohio and throughout the state,” McCullers wrote. “This was also not a decision about financial gain. We will be investing over $500,000 to produce, air, and promote Crew matches in 2014, which far outweighs our return.”
In his tweets, Precourt pointed to new improvements to Crew Stadium, such as the new LED scoreboard, as a reason to be excited about this season.
The Crew released a list of bars and restaurants around Columbus where fans could watch the season opener, but for fans who don’t want to make the trip or have other plans, they’ll be left in the dark.